Irish literature is filled with playwrights, novelists, short story writers, poets, essayists, historians, humorists, and philosophers. They come with names like Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, Frank O'Connor, George Bernard Shaw and Edmund Burke.
The following are just a few of Ireland's greatest writers:
Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin, in 1667. He studied at Kilkenny Grammar School, Trinity College in Dublin (1682-89), receiving his B.A. and M.A.. In 1695 Swift was ordained in the Church of Ireland (Anglican), Dublin. Irish author and journalist, dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral (Dublin) from 1713, the foremost prose satirist in English language. Swift became insane in his last years, but until his death he was known as Dublin's foremost citizen. Swift's most famous works is Gulliver's Travels (1726), where the stories of Gulliver's experiences among dwarfs and giants are best known. Swift gave to these journeys an air of authenticity and realism and many contemporary readers believed them to be true. Jonathan Swift died in Dublin on October 19, 1745.
Edmund Burke 1729–97, attended Trinity College, in Dublin. He was a member of Samuel Johnson's inner circle. The son of a Protestant father and a Roman Catholic mother and himself a Protestant, he never ceased to criticize the English administration in Ireland and the galling discrimination against Catholics. Burke's political career began in 1765 when he became private secretary to the prime minister, and formed a lifelong friendship with that leader. He also entered Parliament in 1765 and there encouraged a wiser treatment of the American colonies. In 1766 he spoke in favor of the repeal of the Stamp Act, although he also supported the Declaratory Act, asserting Britain's constitutional right to tax the colonists. Burke, in his Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770), became the first political philosopher to argue the value of political parties. Although he championed many liberal and reform causes, Burke believed that political, social, and religious institutions represented the wisdom of the ages. He withdrew from political life in 1795 and died two years later.
Oliver Goldsmith was born at Pallas Co. Longford,in 1728. Soon after his birth his family moved to Kilkenny West. Co. Westmeath. In 1744 he went to Trinity College, where his life at college was miserable. He was graduated in 1749.For the next several years he made two more attempts at college and wandered the European continent playing the flute. In 1756 he returned to England. In London through the publication of The Bee and the Life of Beau Nash, Goldsmith achieved considerable popularity, and his fortunes began to mend. He belonged to the circle of Johnson, Burke, Reynolds, and was one of "The Club." The Traveller appeared in 1764, and his reputation as a poet was firmly established. The Vicar of Wakefield, published two years later, increased his popularity, and when he produced his first play, The Good Natur'd Man (1768). In 1770 came The Deserted Village, and three years after his dramatic masterpiece, She Stoops to Conquer, which was highly successful. But Goldsmith's carelessness, his intemperance, and his habit of gambling, soon brought him into debt. Broken in health and mind, he died in 1774.
Maria Edgeworth was born at in, Oxfordshire, the second child of Richard Lovell Edgeworth . who was, a well-known author and inventor. After her father's second marriage in 1773, she went with him to Ireland, where she eventually was to settle on his estate, Edgeworthstown, in Co. Longford. There, she mixed with the Anglo-Irish gentry. She acted as manager of her father's estate, later drawing on this experience for her novels about the Irish. In 1800 by her first novel Castle Rackrent, which was an immediate success. On a visit to London in 1813 Maria met Lord Byron and Humphry Davy. She entered into a long correspondence with Sir Walter Scott . She visited him in Scotland at Abbotsford House in 1823 and they formed a lasting friendship. After her father's death in 1817 she edited his memoirs, and extended them with her biographical comments. She was an active writer to the last, and worked strenuously for the relief of the famine-stricken Irish peasants during the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849). She died in Edgeworthstown in 1849.
Oscar Wilde 1854–1900, was born in Dublin and studied at Trinity College, and at Magdalen College, Oxford.Wilde's stories and essays were well received, but his creative genius found its highest expression in his plays—Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), and his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). In 1891, Wilde met and became intimate with the considerably younger, handsome, and dissolute Lord Alfred Douglas .Soon Douglas's father, began railing against Wilde and later wrote him a note accusing him of homosexual practices. Wilde brought action for libel against Douglas and was himself charged with homosexual offenses under the Criminal Law Amendment, found guilty, and sentenced (1895) to prison for two years. His experiences in jail inspired his most famous poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898),Released from prison in 1897, Wilde found himself a complete social outcast in England and, plagued by ill health and bankruptcy, lived in France under an assumed name until his death.
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was born in Dublin.Yeats was educated in London and in Dublin, but he spent his summers in the west of Ireland in the family's summer house at Connaught. He was active in societies that attempted an Irish literary revival. His first volume of verse appeared in 1887. Together with Lady Gregory he founded the Irish Theatre, which was to become the Abbey Theatre, and served as its chief playwright until the movement was joined by John Synge. His plays usually treat Irish legends; they also reflect his fascination with mysticism and spiritualism. Although a convinced patriot, Yeats deplored the hatred and the bigotry of the Nationalist movement, and his poetry is full of moving protests against it. He was appointed to the Irish Senate in 1922. Yeats is one of the few writers whose greatest works were written after the award of the Nobel Prize. William Butler Yeats died on January 28, 1939 and is interred at Drumcliff in Co. Sligo
James Joyce 1882–1941, Joyce was educated at Clongowes Wood College, Belvedere College and then attended University College in Dublin (1899–1902). Irish novelist. Perhaps the most influential and significant novelist of the 20th century. Joyce was a master of the English language. His novel Ulysses, which is among the great works of world literature. Ulysses, written between 1914 and 1921, was published in Paris in 1922 by Shakespeare & Company. Its publication was banned in the United States until 1933. Joyce returned to Ireland briefly in 1909 in a futile attempt to start a chain of motion picture theaters in Dublin, and again in 1912 in an unsuccessful attempt to arrange for the publication of the short story collection Dubliners, which had to be abandoned due to fears of prosecution for obscenity and libel. From 1922 until 1939 Joyce worked on Finnegans Wake (1939), a complex novel that attempts to connect multiple cycles of Irish and human history into the framework of a single night's events in the family of a Dublin publican. Joyce died in Zürich in 1941.
George Bernard Shaw was born in 1856. Shaw attended Wesleyan Connexional School, and Dublin's Central Model School, ending his formal education at the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School. At the age of 15 he started to work as a junior clerk. In 1876 he went to London. Irish dramatist, literary critic, a socialist spokesman, and a leading figure in the 20th century theater. In 1895 Shaw became a drama critic for the Saturday Review.Shaw was a freethinker, a supporter of women's rights and an advocate of equality of income. In 1925 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Shaw accepted the honor but refused the money. Shaw's popularity declined after his essay "Common Sense About the War" (1914), which was considered unpatriotic. Shaw died on November 2, 1950
Frank O'Connor was born in Cork in 1903. In 1918 O'Connor joined the Irish Republican Army and served in combat during the Irish War of Independence. He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 . He was one of Twelve thousand Anti-Treaty combatants who were interned by the government of the new Irish Free State, between 1922 and 1923. Following his release, O'Connor took various positions including that of Irish teacher, theatre director, and librarian. In 1935, O'Connor became a member of the Board of Directors of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, founded by William Butler Yeats and other members of the Irish National Theatre Society. In 1937, he became managing director of the Abbey. Following Yeats's death in 1939, he left the Abbey . In 1950, he accepted invitations to teach in the United States, where many of his short stories had been published in The New Yorker and won great acclaim. Frank O'Connor on 10 March 1966.
Seamus Heaney, born in 1939, is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 and the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2006. He currently lives in Dublin. Heaney may be the finest poet writing in English today. In his early works, such as Death of a Naturalist (1966) and Door into the Dark (1969), In Station Island (1984), often declared his best sustained work, he tries to come to terms with his own exile. He is widely recognized as Ireland's greatest poet since William Butler Yeats.
Nine Famous Irishmen
In Ireland in 1848 the following 9 men were captured, tried and convicted for treason against
Her Majesty, the Queen of England, and were sentenced to death: John Mitchell, Morris Lyene, Pat
Donahue, Thomas McGee, Charles Duffy, Thomas Meagher, Richard O’Gorman, Terrence McManus
and Michael Ireland.
Before passing sentence, the judge asked if there was anything that anyone wished to say.
Meagher, speaking for all said: “”My lord, this is our first offence but not our last. If you will be easy
with us this once, we promise on our word as gentlemen, to try and do better the next time. And the
next time, - sure we won’t be fools to get caught.”
Thereby the indignant judge sentenced the all to be hanged by the neck until dead and then to
be drawn and quartered. Passionate protest from all over the world forced Queen Victoria to commute
their sentence to transportation for life to the far wilds of Australia.
In 1874, word reached the astounded Queen Victoria that Sir Charles Duffy , who had been elected
Prime Minister of Australia was the same Charles Duffy who had been transported 25 years earlier. On the
Queens demand, the records of the rest of the transported men were revealed, and this is what was uncovered:
Thomas Francis Meagher: Governor of Montana
Terrence McManus : Brigadier General United States Army.
Pat Donahue: Brigadier General United States Army.
Richard O’Gorman: Governor General of Newfoundland
Morris Lyene: Attorney General Of Australia
Michael Ireland: Attorney General Of Australia (succeeded Lyene)
Thomas Darcy McGee: M.P. for Montreal, Minister of Agriculture and President of Council Dominion of Canada.
John Mitchell: Prominent New York Politician.
(note: His son, John Purroy Mitchell became Mayor of New York at the outbreak of WWl.)